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Have you ever been to a sardinade or a cousinade in France?

How adding a suffix can give a sense of event

Montgolfiade – an eye-catching mass take-off of hot-air balloons. Photo for illustration purposes. Pic: DIDIER FOTO / Shutterstock

Summer at the seaside in Provence. The local fishing catch is plentiful, the chilled rosé is flowing nicely and friends or family are gathered around a barbecue to feast on sardines. This is known as the sardinade

When mussels (moules) are the star gastronomic turn, such a gathering is called a mouclade. Both words are also recipes containing said fishy ingredients.

At the end of summer, with a fair wind and a head for heights, airborne adventurers or intrigued onlookers gather for a Montgolfiade – an eye-catching mass take-off of montgolfières (hot-air balloons). Among the most impressive is the one that takes place at cliff-clinging village Rocamadour in the Dordogne Valley (September 24-25 this year). 

All of these social events have the -ade nominal suffix whose base is usually a verb or a noun, and are always feminine (la sardinade, etc). They are used to imply ‘action or the result of action’ – see other common examples, such as baignade (swimming) and balade or promenade (both walking).

The most socially beneficial of all these -ades, however, is the cousinade, because it often reunites distant or long-lost family members at a jovial get-together. Some say that their taking place has changed many family dynamics for the better. 

The word itself is a relatively new addition to the French language – it entered the Petit Larousse dictionary in 2013, largely thanks to petitioning by Christian Ferru, who came up with the word and organised some of France’s biggest cousinades.

In 2012, the world record attendance for a cousinade featuring descendants from one couple (from 1650) was achieved in Vendée, when some 4,500 cousins, many from Canada and the US, gathered for a family fête of epic proportions. 

Related stories:

La viande: Little-known origins of the French word for meat

What is the first ‘swear’ word every French person learns?

Pétante, pile: French phrases to help you set punctual timekeeping

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